“Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
Luck Events: Remind Me Of My Limitations, My Need For Support And My Path To Growth.
I was standing in my living room at 7:48 in the morning on my birthday this year when The Unexpected came in swinging and knocked me flat.
I was waiting for a cab (which was a few minutes late, ugh!) to take me to O’Hare Airport. I was heading to Orlando, Florida for a work convention. My bags were packed, the itinerary printed AND saved on my phone. I was pacing, walking off my nervous energy, checking my emails when a text chimed through, “Have you got time for a call?” was the message.
It was from my closest co-worker, a woman with whom I worked for the last 13 years, and whose opinions, advice, and skills I absolutely relied on daily. She rarely asked for a call when a text would do, so I immediately dialed her number. If I had 100 guesses as to the nature of that call, I would not have guessed what was to come.
After a cursory, pleasant greeting, she laid me out.
“Well, take a breath,” she said and paused. “I’ve taken another job.”
Back in 2021, I wrote an article for On The Level in which I talked about Luck Events. If any of you are interested in this very clever and useful concept, I heartily recommend Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, by James C. Collins, Morten T Hansen. In this book, the authors tackle “Luck Events” and the “Return on Luck.” A luck event has two primary criteria: 1. It is outside of our control, and 2. It has the potential to greatly impact our businesses.
I reread this chapter in Great by Choice about once a year. Since I’ve been at Keson (2004) there have been more than ten of these: for example, factory fires at suppliers, a pandemic, supply chain disruption, housing downturn, critical customer loss, major opportunity arise, new business partnerships form and dissolve, etc. I don’t want to give the impression of instability because about half of these could be considered good luck events. Inevitably, things happen that we did not foresee, that are outside of our control and that have the potential to greatly impact our business. Nearly every year, as we are executing the solid plans we’ve laid out and I start getting a little comfortable, something happens that feels like I’ve been punched in the face.
These events and, more importantly, their outcomes can be laid out in a simple matrix. I have put a few of our examples into the grid.
Please note: the Bad Luck/Bad Outcome square that contains “factory fire” was at three different companies of three different owners, in three different countries, in three different decades.
Thankfully I haven’t been punched, much less in the face, in decades. However, the concept is a workable metaphor for the disorientation I feel when the unexpected happens.
There are a few steps recommended for reacting to Luck Events.
Recognizing The Situation For What It Is
- Is this outside of our control?
- Does it have the possibility to impact our business greatly?
- Do we have to act in this situation?
Orient Yourself And Your Organization To Take Advantage Of It
- How much time do we have to act?
- How do we make the most of the current situation?
- Who internally and externally can we put on this? It is usually advisable to put your best resources on your biggest problems.
How To Grow From Your Experiences
Review your past. Look to the past and ask:
- Where did we maximize our situation regardless of the event (“good” or “bad”)?
- Where did we miss out?
- How could we have done better?
I am much more used to these types of events and my own processing of them today, after 20 years and many experiences both positive and negative. The sting is not so terrible, the ringing does not last as long and after a stumble or two I am able to get up off the mat, find my feet, clear my head, and get back at it. Sometimes the path is to start again on the same plan. Sometimes it means taking a completely different approach. Sometimes it requires abandoning a goal or objective to handle this crisis directly impacting our business.
She was waiting for a response. I took a deep breath and sighed. I took another, and a third.
“Are you still there?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Is there anything we can do to change your mind?” There wasn’t.
“Okay,” I said, and took another breath. I recognized that this situation was outside of my control and that it would have a pretty big impact on the business, at least my area of responsibility. As I exhaled, I accepted what I could not control.
“Well, congratulations! They are certainly lucky to have you,” I said. “How much time do we have until you go?”
And we made the best of it.